- More than 153,400 COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. Thursday, marking the country’s third straight day of record single-day spikes.
- Hospitalizations are also at an all-time high in the U.S., and health experts warn that holiday travel plans and gathering will cause the pandemic to worsen since it opens people up to more unnecessary opportunities to contract and spread the virus.
- Cities like New York and Chicago have tightened restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving, and others will likely do the same in the coming days.
Coronavirus Cases Continue To Spike
With Thanksgiving just two weeks away, experts are warning against holiday travel as COVID-19 cases reach record-shattering levels.
On Thursday, the country hit more than 153,400 cases in a single day. That marks the third straight day of record one-day spikes, and according to estimates, more than 67,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 across the country. That’s more than at any other point during the pandemic.
With these numbers, the U.S. has now surpassed 10.6 million coronavirus cases and 242,000 deaths as of Friday morning. Now, the average of both cases and hospitalizations is on the rise in nearly every state.
According to CNBC, average daily cases are only steady or falling in Louisiana, Montana, and Georgia, but it actually says that’s likely due to reporting errors in Louisiana and Georgia.
The bottom line is, the coronavirus is still very bad right now in most of the country, and experts are worried that things are only going to get worse in the coming weeks, especially as the weather gets colder and as more families plan to gather for the holidays.
Experts Warning Against Thanksgiving Gatherings
Dr. Celine Gounder, member of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, warned against holiday travel plans.
“Right now we have a fire blazing, and to me traveling and spending time with people over the holidays is sort of like pouring gasoline on a fire,” she told CNBC.
“It’s just not a good idea in the middle of a pandemic, especially at this juncture.”
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said last month that he won’t be having his kids come home for Thanksgiving.
“I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country and in order for them to get here, they would all have to go to an airport, get on a plane and travel with public transportation,” he said at the time, stressing how traveling opens up more potential for contracting and spreading the virus.
He even told The New York Times this month that people often feel a false sense of safety when around trusted people like friends and family.
“They don’t realize they’ve come in from multiple cities, spent time in airports,” he said.
“They come to a house where Grandma and Grandpa are, or someone with an underlying condition, and they innocently and inadvertently bring infection into a home. It’s dangerous. You’ve got to be careful.”
Local Governments Take Action
With this in mind, many local officials warning their communities to be safe this holiday season.
In New York for example, where cases have risen 61% over the past week, Mayor Bill de Blasio has urged all residents to not travel out of the state for the holidays because the city is trying to fight off a second wave.
Starting Friday, he even imposed a 10:00 p.m. curfew for indoor services like bars, restaurants, and gyms. He’s considering shutting down schools Monday, and already put a 10 person cap on gatherings within private homes, which of course is going to put a wrench in people’s Thanksgiving plans.
In fact, Republicans there are already vowing to break the cap on gatherings. Joe Borelli, a Staten Island Republican who is the minority whip of the NYC city council, tweeted about doing so last week.
“I’ll be having more than 10 ppl at my house on Thanksgiving. My address is public record. Some family will come from (gasp!) New Jersey,” he wrote.
“Kids will see their grandparents, cousins will play in the yard, sis in law will bring strawberry rhubarb pie, & a turkey will be overcooked.”
His response drew in its own backlash, but this isn’t the only city tightening restrictions.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked people to stay home for Thanksgiving as well, as the city tries to tackle its rising cases.
“This is serious life and death,” she said at a press conference.
“We are sounding the alarm that we are at this inflection point where we have to do more than we’ve already done.”
She went a step further, issuing a 30-day stay at home advisory, which calls for residents to stay home unless for essential reasons, stop inviting guests over, avoid unnecessary travel, and cancel traditional Thanksgiving plans.
These are just some examples, so don’t be surprised if more cities and states begin announcing safety measures ahead of the holidays, especially as cases continue to rise.
Even the CDC has been warning about the risks of gathering with people you don’t live with for Thanksgiving this year, and instead recommended connecting with loved ones virtually.
Realistically, however, the CDC knows people will gather anyway.
Because of that, it did release recommendations that could make those situations safer, which includes wearings masks, staying 6 feet apart, and washing hands, but also tips like bringing your own utensils or going for single-use options, and eating outdoors, among other things.
Still, the CDC says, “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.